With southern Italy’s most breathtaking coastline, the Amalfi Coast is world-renowned for its romance.A place this gorgeous was bound to be popular, and during the high-summer months it can be incredibly busy so try visiting in spring or fall to dodge the crowds. Or take to the sea at any time of year – a fabulous way to take in views of the many pretty towns clinging to the soaring hills.
The coast’s busiest town is Amalfi. Once a powerful maritime trading center, it has its fair share of impressive architecture, not least the spectacular Cathedral of St Andrew. Built in the 13th century, the Arab-influenced duomo sits grandly atop a steep flight of stairs and houses the relics of St Andrew the Apostle (patron saint of Amalfi as well as Scotland and Russia) in its crypt.
Some 1,200 feet above the sea, overlooking the bay of Salerno and a short drive east of Amalfi, is the mountaintop town of Ravello. This ravishing beauty is a place of shady gardens and quiet lanes, with a slower pace of life that has seduced everyone from Wagner to DH Lawrence and Gore Vidal. Chief among Ravello’s charms is the stately Villa Cimbrone, extensively renovated by a British nobleman at the beginning of the 20th century and now a 5-star hotel. It’s the villa’s gardens, considered one of the most important examples of English landscaping in the south of Europe, that are the main draw. Wander past scented roses and exuberant hydrangeas to the Terrazza dell’Infinito (Terrace of Infinity), where a series of majestic marble busts guards a vista of cerulean-blue sky and sea that will leave you breathless.
If you’re feeling energetic, a more active way to take in the scenery is to hike the Il Vallone delle Ferriere. This 4-mile trail winds through the woods near Ravello, passing orchid-lined streams, cascading waterfalls and picturesque old medieval ruins. You could also attempt the hour-and-a-half climb up the slopes to reach the top of the towering Monte Solaro, over on the island of Capri. But a gentler ascent of the peak known to locals as ‘cloud catcher’ is by chairlift – glide to the 1,932-ft summit, where on a clear day you can see all the way to Vesuvius back on the mainland.
Alternatively, you can drive along the ‘road of a thousand bends’, the 40km Strada Statale 163, was built in 1852 and connects the hilltop village of Meta, just outside Sorrento, with Vietri sul Mare in the east. The narrow highway hugs the rugged cliffs, weaving in and out of deep gorges and passing olive groves, lemon terraces and picture-postcard villages, the Tyrrhenian Sea glittering far below.
A visit to that mighty monolith is another must-do for any visitor to this part of Italy. Mount Vesuvius is mainland Europe’s last active volcano – the land around was made a national park in 1995 and you can walk the edge of the crater with a certified guide, marvelling at the lunar landscape as steam shoots up from small vents inside. The volcano’s last big blowout was in 1944, and activity is closely monitored daily for signs of a new eruption.
Of course the most famous fury of this sleeping giant occurred in AD 79 when, after centuries of dormancy, dust and rocks began to explode from its crater. The avalanche of lava that raced down the mountainside hit the Roman town of Pompeii at 100 miles per hour, burying it an instant but also preserving it perfectly. Once an important port town for the ancient Roman Empire, Pompeii was filled with sailor’s hotels, bars, public baths, taverns and brothels and the archaeological site and ongoing excavations give visitors a fascinating insight into ancient Roman life.
As you travel along this rugged coast, every turn reveals a wide-open sweep of the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea and, if you’re keen to ride the waves, your Luxury Retreats concierge can organize a boat tour to take you to the sights best approached by water. One of the most spellbinding is the Grotta dello Smeraldo (Emerald Grotto), a cave filled with intense greenish light that filters into the water from an arch below sea level and is reflected off the cavern walls. Stalactites cling, stalagmites climb and the atmosphere is eerily beautiful.
If your vacation dream is to live la dolce vita on the Amalfi Coast, we have just the villa for you. From a bijou one-beds perfect for honeymooners to grand properties sleeping up to 30, and with everything from pink-stucco-clad beauties to modern marvels, you’re sure to find the perfect getaway.
The beautiful Isle of Capri, once the playground of the Emperor Tiberius, has long been a glamorous vacation destination for chic travelers. Rent a Capri villa with us to experience its classic charm. We have properties close to Capri Town’s Piazzetta, or main square, where you can head for the evening passeggiata and sit to enjoy aperitivo hour with a chilled Aperol spritz. Our villas’ pools, terraces and gardens make for the perfect alfresco retreat.
With its candy-colored houses clinging to cascading cliffs, Positano is one of the coast’s most exquisite spots. Our villas in Positano offer access to this chic town of winding lanes filled with boutiques and trattorias. With gasp-worthy views at every turn, many of our properties also feature gorgeous traditional styling such as colourful tiled floors and kitchens with a pizza oven where you can create perfect pies with the freshest local produce.
The town of Sorrento perches picturesquely on a plateau above the sea with spectacular views over the Bay of Naples. And our villas in Sorrento make the ideal base for exploring the region's highlights. Both handsome hillside homes with cascading terraces and colonnaded beachside retreats await.